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August 29, 2013

New York needs schools that meet businesses' expectations

By Heather C. Briccetti, Esq.

As Hudson Valley students head back to school, they will not only step back into the classroom, but also into the middle of a critically important debate. The outcome of that debate will determine if our state can compete in the global marketplace. The center of the debate is the Common Core—a set of expectations for what our students should know and in what grade they should know it. The recent release of scores from new, rigorous exams based on Common Core standards were markedly lower than those in previous years, which has fueled arguments over when and how the standards should be implemented.

Widely reported as a “drop” in grades, this year's tests are based on a much different standard – college and career preparation versus basic competency.

These scores show that schools are failing to teach students what they need to know to be prepared for college and careers.

New York Education Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents stressed that the most recent test results set a new baseline based on the Common Core, something the business community agrees with.

These results should serve as a wake-up call that students are moving down an educational path that will leave them ill-equipped in the post-high school world. All categories of work are increasingly complex with new technology and skills required in all sectors. Young people need schools to prepare them for college or post-secondary training. Businesses today spend an excessive amount of time and money teaching workers skills they should have learned in school, meaning there are fewer resources to invest in other aspects of their business.

In order to close this skills gap, schools must produce graduates that are prepared to meet the demands of these jobs. Implementing vital reforms—such as the Common Core— to improve workforce readiness is essential if today's students are to become part of tomorrow's workforce.

Common Core State Standards are broadly supported by educators and meet the business community's expectations: they are college-and career-ready, grounded in evidence and internationally benchmarked. While some are claiming that the state implemented tests based on the Common Core too soon, backtracking on this vital reform now would be a grave mistake.

Without a fundamentally different approach like the Common Core, employers' needs and graduates' skills will continue on increasingly divergent paths.

The Business Council of New York State recently signed a letter in supporting Common Core standards. The Council encourages all New York businesses to sign on to the letter available at www.nysucceeds.org.

Heather C. Briccetti, Esq. is president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State